Dog Bites & Animal Attacks
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What to Expect During Dog Bite Lawsuits
If you have suffered a dog bite and rabies or another injury has occurred, then you will want to look into your state's dog bites laws. This is because you may be able to file a lawsuit against the dog owner to collect damages to compensate you for your injuries. However, it's important to understand that dog bite lawsuits are not usually resolved quickly and, in fact, may take months or even years to conclude.
Proving Liability in Dog Bite Lawsuits
The main issue in dog bite lawsuits is proving liability. You and your personal injury lawyer will work together to prove to the court that the dog owner should be held accountable for the injuries you sustained because of the dog's actions.
Proving liability will vary from state to state. In fact, there are several types of liability laws across the country. You should consult your dog bite attorney to understand the laws in your state.
For example, if you live in a state like California, you will have to prove the dog owner is at fault based on strict liability. Under strict liability laws, almost any injury the dog causes will be deemed the fault of the dog owner. However, there are some exceptions. If you were trespassing on the dog owner's property or were taunting the dog, the dog owner may not be responsible for the accident.
If you live in a state such as Texas, then you will have to prove the dog owner is at fault based on "one bite" laws. Under these laws, a dog owner is not at fault for the first time a dog ever attacks a person. However, all subsequent incidents are the fault of the dog owner.
Even if your case does not meet the requirements necessary to prove liability in strict liability or one-bite jurisdictions, you still have grounds for a lawsuit if you can prove the dog owner's negligent actions allowed the dog to bite you. For example, say you live in a one-bite-law state. If the dog owner disobeyed leash laws, which then enabled the animal to attack you, you may be able to hold the dog owner accountable even if it was the animal's first incident of biting someone.
You should also expect your lawyer to collect evidence from you for the purposes of your case.
You may find some of the evidence collection to be intrusive, but it is necessary in order to file a claim. For example, your lawyer will probably ask for photographs of your injuries, copies of your medical bills, and copies of your medical records.
In addition, the attorney for the dog owner may ask you to give a deposition. You will be under oath when the deposition is taken, so it is important that you be honest with your answers. Common question topics asked during the deposition process include:
- Your criminal history if you have one
- Places you've lived in the past
- Your employment history and your salaries
- Specifics about the dog bite such as where you were headed when you were bitten, what time of day the attack happened, and whether you were doing anything to provoke the attack
- Specifics about your injuries and what treatment you received from your doctor
Stages of a Dog Bite Lawsuit
Finally, you can expect there to be multiple stages of a dog bite lawsuit, some of which will take much longer than others.
Before the lawsuit is even filed with the court, your attorney may send a demand letter to the dog owner informing him or her of your intent to sue, the injuries you sustained, the argument for your case, and a settlement amount that you would accept to avoid trial.
Next comes a period of negotiation where your attorney and the dog owner's attorney try to negotiate a settlement agreement that is satisfactory to you. If none can be reached, then your attorney will file a formal lawsuit against the dog owner.
At the onset of the trial, people will be selected to sit on the jury. Once the actual trial commences, each attorney will have the opportunity to give their opening statements.
In the middle of the trial, attorneys will present evidence to the court. They will also call various witnesses to be questioned and cross-examined.
Finally, the attorneys will each give their closing arguments. The jury will then deliberate. Upon returning, they will give their verdict.